Flourishing Gardens, Blossoming Vines, and Unfaithful Spouses

Reading #14 | July 18, 2021

So much of Hosea relies on the metaphor of faithless spouses who can’t help themselves from being faithless. Hosea is faithful and steadfast; his bride, Gomer, is faithless and fickle. Hosea doesn’t deserve a spouse like Gomer and Gomer doesn’t deserve a spouse like Hosea. He could, and perhaps should, leave her, but he doesn’t. Hosea doesn’t desert Gomer because he is faithful and steadfast. It’s his nature.

Hosea (the faithful spouse), of course, is meant to be a metaphor for God. God (and Hosea) are faithful and steadfast even when their spouse is not. God’s bride is Israel, the people of God.

Hosea, the prophet, assumes that God’s people are unfaithful and are going to be unfaithful. Why is Israel unfaithful? Why are unfaithful spouses unfaithful? The reasons are many: they find other partners more attractive, more beautiful or handsome; other partners make them laugh; other partners provide a different ear for their problems; other partners give better gifts; or they like the way they feel when they’re cheating and unfaithful. Or maybe it’s the adventure or the risk or the “scandal” of the illicit, unfaithful affair compared to the “boring” character of their spouse at home.

Hosea knows that God’s people will be unfaithful, but he hopes and prays that they will be faithful. Hosea is—and will be—faithful to his bride even though he knows it’s not their nature. Hosea’s nature—and God’s nature—is to be faithful and steadfast; the nature and character of God’s people is to be faithless. Hosea 14 is the final appeal to Israel to return to God. Hosea appeals to Israel to return to God. God will welcome them, Hosea says. They don’t deserve to be welcomed but welcomed they will be. And this is indeed the gospel: we don’t deserve anything we have, our possessions or our relationships, but God blesses us with food, shelter, and relationships, nonetheless. We will flourish as a garden and blossom like the vine. We will flourish and blossom not because of our character, but because of God’s character.

David Ratke is a member of Holy Trinity, Hickory, and retired pastor and faculty member at Lenoir-Rhyne University who enjoys being outdoors especially in his garden trying to contribute to its flourishing. 

To Consider

1. What do you have that you don’t deserve? 
2. What would it mean to flourish as a garden and blossom like the vine?


God, you are faithful and steadfast; we are not. Thank you for welcoming us into your presence so that we may flourish as a garden and blossom like the vine. Amen. 

Share with a Friend

Scroll to Top